A Taste of Essex: What’s Not to Love?

Exploring the website of Visit Windsor Essex, I noticed the comment, “We have plenty of reasons why you’ll love this place.” I had travelled through the area many times but had never taken proper time to enjoy the sites, the tastings, and the culinary adventures that abound. I am ecstatic to say that I have now crossed this off my bucket list. (But have added it back on, as there is much more to see and do.)

Early one Saturday morning, we ventured out to where the road would take us. We had reservations at the Iron Kettle Bed & Breakfast in Comber, but other than that the day was ours. The 401 is fine but the secondary roads are fun, with more to see along the way.

First stop: The Grove Brew House in Kingsville

Arriving in Kingsville (which to me is the Cape Cod of the north) at lunchtime, we found The Grove Brew House on Main Street. What could be better than a beer sampling after a couple of hours of driving? Located in the Grove Hotel, a historic landmark dating back to the days of prohibition, the brew house is built over the former patio. The hotel has recently been restored with a focus on theme rooms, such as the Elvis, The Canadiana and the Brew Master’s Suite.

In addition to sampling five of the beers brewed on site (my favorite was Peachy Motherpucker), we enjoyed a delectable lunch: Harvest Salad of locally grown beets, greens, and goat cheese, and Stout Crème Brûlée for dessert.

Take a maker’s class with Marlene Mastronardi at Anna’s Flowers

Next stop — Anna’s Flowers, to tour the spectacular greenhouses and attend a “maker’s class”. I surprised myself with the results of the Spring Planter Bowl that I designed with the help of a very artistic instructor. “Inspiring others to live a beautiful and healthy life, both inside and outside of their homes,” Anna’s offers not only a huge variety of flowers and plants, but also workshops and events.

Thirst quenched, appetite more than satisfied, and the proud owner of a planter, I was off to the quaint village of Comber and the Iron Kettle B&B. Located in a heritage home built in 1876, the award-winning Iron Kettle is not just a place to sleep and have breakfast.

Several years ago Ben and Ginette, the current innkeepers, spent their honeymoon there. Shortly thereafter they found out that it was for sale. They gave up city life and moved to Comber. From the moment you arrive, you know that they love what they do.

The breakfast room at The Iron Kettle B&B in Comber

Ben is a chef, so we were not only there for breakfast, but for an amazing culinary experience at dinner consisting of an appetizer of braised pork belly served with locally grown heirloom tomatoes, a salad of quinoa, beet, and goat cheese with maple balsamic dressing, and an entrée of fresh, local spring lamb with leek and mushroom risotto. This was topped off with a beet cheesecake with grape jelly. Everything is homemade and ingredients are locally grown. Breakfast was every bit as delectable, with a sweet potato frittata, buttermilk waffles, fresh local strawberries, and homemade breads and preserves.

This would be a great place to use as your base, as it is very convenient to many sites in Essex County.

Wine tasting at North 42 Degrees Estate Winery with Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc paired with Salmon Gravadlax

I am not a late sleeper, but the room was so comfortable that sleeping in was easy. After our breakfast experience, we were off to North 42 Degrees Estate Winery and Serenity Lavender Farm for wine tasting, lunch and to learn more about lavender. Recently opened, the modern design of the building provides a spectacular view of the vineyards and the lavender bushes. The wine tasting was splendid, with my favorite being Oh Canada! aka ‘the Beaver’ because of its Canada 150 label. Cracked black pepper meets raspberry, blackberry, and black currant with a hint of rich dark cocoa, loaded with flavour. Salmon gravadlax garnished with avocado, a glass of Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, and vanilla panna cotta garnished with fresh fruit made for a luscious lunch. Next time dessert will come first; Blueberry White Chocolate Lavender Cheesecake sounds like a must try.

Serenity Lavender, at North 42 Winery

My artistic talents were tested at Colchester Ridge Estate Winery, known as CREW. I assembled a cheese board while sipping on a glass of Red Sky at Night. The back room of the winery was turned into a classroom, with participants sampling wine and learning how to create a cheese board filled with fruit, veggies, and a variety of meat and cheeses. We included fresh strawberries from Leamington, cheeses from area dairies, and local meats. Sarah, the “Cheese Expert” and teacher, was extremely knowledgeable and entertaining. The two hours felt like 15 minutes, and we didn’t want to leave. The plan is to return for “Brunch in the Vineyard” soon.

It was almost time to head home, but we first had to check out the award-winning Wolfhead Distillery. Inspired by the local history of rum-running and Prohibition, Wolfhead is the first premium craft distillery in Essex County. Over 92,000 whisky barrels are on display throughout the grounds, with many picnic tables available for outdoor dining. Nick the bartender provided a great commentary on the story of the distillery and the varieties of whisky and vodka available, from Grapefruit Vodka to Coffee Whiskey Liqueur, all distilled with natural ingredients. After a bowl of piping hot seafood chowder accompanied by toasted pita points it was time to go.

The weekend was a tiny taste of the many great things to see and do in Essex County. Now I am counting the sleeps until my next visit.

The writer was a guest of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, which did not review or approve the contents of this article.

About the author

Nancy Loucks-McSloy

Nancy Loucks-McSloy is a freelance writer who loves cooking and entertaining. Her work has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Fur-Bearing Trout and Other True Tales of Canadian Life, McLean’s, Vitality and many other publications.